Reforming the Presidential Library Donation Disclosure Process

February 28, 2007

From the web page of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

This hearing will examine the need for public disclosure of donations made to private foundations established to fund presidential libraries and related facilities. The committee will consider possible legislative proposals to require such disclosure.

Updated: A video of the hearing is also now available at the web page.

The following witnesses testified:

Mr. Waxman noted in his statement:

The George H.W. Bush library was reported to cost more than $80 million to build. The Clinton library and museum cost about $165 million to build. News reports have indicated that he fundraising goal for President Bush’s library is $500 million – half a billion dollars – before this institution is completed.

The vast scale of these secret fundraising efforts creates opportunities for abuse. Donors who do not need to be identified can give unlimited amounts of money to support these libraries while the President remains in office. According to some accounts, some mega-donors being courted to fund the Bush library are expected to contribute $10 to $20 million each. And they may make these contributions while there are nearly two years left in President Bush’s term.

Later this week, Rep. Duncan and I will be introducing legislation to reform this system. This legislation would require that presidential libraries disclose the identity of their donors to Congress and the National Archives during their period of most intense fundraising, which is hile the President is in office and in the several years after the end of his term. I expect the Committee to consider this legislation next week.

This legislation is one part of a larger effort by this Committee to restore honesty and accountability in the federal government. In fact, the Committee will soon be considering two additional open government bills: one to improve access to presidential records and one to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act.

As we will learn at today’s hearing and when we mark up the open government legislation, these bills are bipartisan initiatives with broad public support.

Just this morning, the Dallas Morning News reported that President Bush donated over $100,000 to his own library fund, and added:

Other donations that might have come in remain secret. There is no law requiring presidential libraries to disclose funding sources, though some gifts do come to light because the donors themselves – in this case, the Governor Bush Committee – are subject to state or federal disclosure laws.

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The Texas Observer blog checks in with an update

February 28, 2007

W, The Library: The Update
Matthew C. Wright
Texas Observer Blog
February 27th, 2007

It’s been a quiet month or so since members of the faculty at Southern Methodist University decided that, maybe, just maybe, it’s not a good idea to let the Current Occupant set up a propaganda mill on campus.

So how is that fight going? “Pretty much everyone seems to have lost interest now that the semester is fully underway,” our sources at the school said this week.

To be expected, I guess, when the faculty doesn’t have a direct seat at the negotiating table with Bush’s site-selection committee. Only SMU president Gerald Turner, a staunch supporter of the library, enjoys that privilege.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t important, riveting, slow-motion drama playing out inside the bureaucracy. Okay, maybe not riveting, but the Faculty Senate is taking what steps it can internally to curb the possible damage Bush’s institute could do.

Continued here (with a nod to the Bush Library Blog as “useful” if not riveting–thanks!)


Bush’s Obstruction of History

February 28, 2007

Bush’s Obstruction of History
John Wertman
The Washington Post
February 26, 200

At some point in the next few months, President Bush is expected to announce his choice for the location of his presidential library. Once it’s open, most of the media attention is likely to focus on the public exhibits, which will no doubt extol the president’s compassionate conservatism, his leadership immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and his impressive selections of John Roberts and Sam Alito for the Supreme Court.

More important to history, however, are the documents that the National Archives will store in the Bush library. These records tell the real story of an administration. Some reveal heartfelt empathy and honest division about a hard decision facing a president at a given moment in time; others may prove embarrassing and show nothing but the basest of political motivations. But for better or for worse, these records belong to the American people and should be available so that future generations can learn from the triumphs and failures of our past leaders.

Continued here.